Statins can reduce flu death rates

 Statins, currently used to control high cholesterol levels, could potentially halve death rates from influenza when used with critically ill patients.

A new observational study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases calls for randomised control trials (RCTs) to confirm these results, gained with hospital patients in the US.

These results point to a potential new indication for statins in the prevention and treatment of influenza, alongside the current use of vaccines for prevention and antivirals for treatment.

The data covered 3,000 adults hospitalised with influenza in 10 US states over the winter of 2007–8.

Approximately a third of these patients were given statin medications such as Lipitor for other reasons (high cholesterol or blood pressure). These patients showed almost twice the survival rate of those not given statins.

The study concluded that “statins were associated with a decrease in odds of dying among cases hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, when adjusted for age, race, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, renal disease, influenza vaccine receipt, and initiation of antivirals”.

The authors note that RCTs are needed to fully clarify the benefits of statins for influenza treatment, including detailed analysis of dose response, age profile and which statin classes are most effective.